Tag Archives | Science Fiction

SciFi SongFest, Songs 100-101

As an appropriate homage to Bowie’s Man Who Fell to Earth – two songs about an alien trapped on earth:

100. Pixies, “Motorway to Roswell” (1991):

101. GWAR, “Lust in Space” (2009):

“Lust in Space” is not about lust (except in the Augustinian sense of overweening desire for something other than God) and does not take place in space (except in the sense of spatial extension). Discuss.

SciFi SongFest, Songs 97-99

Kipling’s verses here employ stress in engineering and architecture as a metaphor for unendurable stress on the human mind and/or body, while Bowie’s exemplify that stress in his own howl of angry resentment at the illness that was killing him. (Thus the sci-fi hook – engineering and architecture for Kipling [plus Fish and Ecklar are best known for their sci-fi work], physiology and medicine for Bowie, psychology for both. A stretch, I know.) Both were written in the final years of their respective authors’ lives, both raging in pain and anguish at the dying of the light:

97. Rudyard Kipling (words 1935), Julia Ecklar & Leslie Fish (music 1983), “Hymn of Breaking Strain”:

Kipling’s lyrics remind me of Robert Heinlein’s lines, in Stranger in a Strange Land, about Rodin’s sculpture The Fallen Caryatid: “this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads…. she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her …. she’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

But while Kipling’s verses end on a note of hope, Bowie’s end with a snarling refusal and then a sudden silence:

98. David Bowie, “Killing a Little Time” (2016):

Fittingly, the final Bowie song in this SciFi SongFest. But not the final entry, by any means. I have enough material picked out to last through Hallowe’en, which seems like as good a time as any to stop.

On a less depressing note ….

99. Jemaine Clement (vocals) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (words & music), “Shiny”:

This song, from the film Moana, was intended as a tribute to David Bowie – both his vocal style and his (formerly) glam wardrobe:

There’s even a version online that purports to be recorded by Bowie himself. It’s a fake, but a very skillful and enjoyable fake – imitating the voice of later Bowie just as the movie version imitates the voice of earlier Bowie:

SciFi SongFest, Songs 95-96

95. David Bowie, “Blackstar” (2015):

“Blackstar” was released shortly (like, two days) before Bowie’s death, and the lyrics seem to reference his impending fate: “Something happened on the day he died …. How many times does an angel fall?” The lyrics don’t mention Major Tom, but the video – with the production of which Bowie was closely involved – begins with an apparently dead astronaut marooned on a distant planet under a black sun, and later we see his skeleton plunging into this black sun – Major Tom’s final farewell to his fans. (We’re not quite done with Bowie yet, though. One more day of Bowie to go.)

Songs can be about more than one thing, of course; and some of the video’s visuals, particularly in connection with the line “On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile” have been interpreted as a reference to ISIS, whose exploits Bowie followed with hostile interest.

The video’s button-eyed Bowie and his button-eyed scarecrows are also reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline:

96. Ayreon, “Into the Black Hole” (2000):

Another song about a black sun and impending death ….

SciFi SongFest, Songs 93-94

Stay away from the future
back away from the light
it’s all deranged
no control ….
I shall live my life on bended knee
if I can’t control my destiny ….

I believe I can see the future
’cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
then again that might have been a dream ….
I just do what I’ve been told
I really don’t want them to come around ….

93. David Bowie, “No Control” (1995):

94. Nine Inch Nails, “Every Day Is Exactly the Same” (2005):

SciFi SongFest, Songs 90-92

90. David Bowie, “The Laughing Gnome” (1967):

Welcome to what may be the most universally hated Bowie song:

It seems only cosmic justice to pair “The Laughing Gnome” with this other unbeloved classic:

91. The Go-Go’s, “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek” (1964):

No, these are not the Go-Go’s you’re thinking of.

The only good part of this song is the bit that’s swiped from the 1959 Peter Gunn theme:

Plus you can tell these Daleks are inauthentic, because they ask for plum pudding. Everybody knows that what Daleks want is rice pudding and plenty of it:

92. Who Cares?, “Doctor in Distress” (1985):

After “The Laughing Gnome” and “I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek,” this other much-hated Doctor-Who-related song – part of an effort to save the show from cancellation – seems like a masterpiece in comparison. And at least it’s sound on the Dalek question.

“When they were faced with danger, they didn’t run”? Really? Because I’m pretty sure that frantic running (usually down corridors or through rock quarries) has been a staple of the show from the beginning.

Middelboe Chronicles, Part 33: Moses

As with yesterday’s The Magic Paintbrush, so with today’s Moses (“Testament: The Bible in Animation,” 1996), a cruel and unreasonable ruler receives a magical comeuppance:

I mentioned last week that Ben Kingsley had played Potiphar. He has also played Moses. In this clip, Moses has dragged the Israelites to a concert by Hotblack Desiato’s Disaster Area but they are not as into it as he is:

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